Vladimir Bukovsky, 76, exile who exposed use of psychiatric hospitals to jail dissidents.

Critics of “sex offender civil commitment” laws often liken them to the Soviet practices of imprisoning dissidents in psychiatric hospitals. The man who was credited for exposing this soviet practice, Vladimir K. Bukovsky, died recently at age 76.  We wanted to remember him and remind Just Futurists just how alike these practices truly are. 

Mr. Bukovsky was best known for exposing the misuse of Soviet medicine to “treat” political dissent as a psychiatric disorder — something he knew about firsthand, having been sent to a psychiatric hospital. The practice began under Yuri V. Andropov, the K.G.B. chief who became head of the Communist Party for a little more than a year before his death at 69 in 1984.

ImageMr. Bukovsky, left, during a press conference in London in 1976 after he was freed by the Soviet authorities.
Credit…Central Press/Getty Images

Mr. Bukovsky’s courtroom denunciation of the K.G.B.’s hijacking of Soviet medicine to serve political persecution enraged the authorities and established his reputation as a hero to fellow dissidents.
“Bukovsky’s heroic speech to the court in defense of freedom and his five years of martyrdom in a despicable psychiatric jail will be remembered long after the torturers he defied have rotted away,” the exiled Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov wrote in 1974.

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Vladimir Bukovsky’s experience with the soviet treatment with dissidence began when he was just 20 years old:

He was arrested for the first time in 1963 and detained for a time at Lefortovo, a notorious czarist-era jail in Moscow. Doctors at the infamous Serbsky Institut of Forensic Psychiatry soon pronounced that he was suffering from mental illness. Declared to be too ill to stand trial, he was sent to the Leningrad Special Mental Hospital for treatment.

Bukovsky’s struggles with the legal system left a serious mark on his psyche, that many who have struggled with the American sex-related legal regime might be able to relate to:

A solitary man who never married and whose most trusted companion in Britain was his cat, Mr. Bukovsky acknowledged in his autobiography that his ordeal in the Soviet Union had warped his previously sociable nature and made him suspicious of other people. Too many whom he had trusted, he recalled, later testified against him.

After being imprisoned for a fourth time, he wrote, “I realized that there is no greater disappointment than the life one experiences after leaving prison.” He explained what he meant: “When you meet someone for the first time, you inevitably view them as a future witness in your future trial.”

In an unexpected twist, Bukovsky was accused of downloading illegal images in Britten, where he lived in exile.  Sadly, The New York Times dedicates several inches of column space to these accusations instead of focusing on the mans accomplishments and legacy.  Normally we would not choose to replicate such content, however we thought that some aspects of the reporting might be of special interest to our readers:

 

Gravely ill but still chain smoking, Mr. Bukovsky spent his last years in Cambridge trying to salvage his reputation after he was criminally charged in Britain over pornographic images of children found on his computer. He pleaded not guilty, and insisted to The New York Times in 2016 that the images had been planted, probably as part of a dirty tricks operation by Russia. But a British computer expert who testified at his trial in December that year said there was no evidence of tampering, and that Mr. Bukovsky had apparently downloaded the images himself. The trial, at the Cambridge Crown Court, was suspended soon after it started when Mr. Bukovsky was taken to a hospital with bronchial pneumonia. A full hearing of the evidence against him never took place. The trial was scheduled to resume in February 2018 but the judge, citing Mr. Bukovsky’s “serious illnesses of the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys,” ordered the case halted. Whatever the truth of the prosecution’s allegations, they did little to dent his standing as a giant of the dissident movement in the Soviet Union and later Russia [….] “Nobody I know really believed the accusations,” Ms. Ackerman said. “He remained a hero.”

 

Click here to read the full obituary in The New York Times.

 

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